Rick Nash practiced with his teammates on Wednesday afternoon at the MSG Training Center for the first time since suffering a head injury after absorbing an elbow from San Jose defenseman Brad Stuart in a game on October 8th. Though a bit tired, Nash was smiling afterwards in the dressing room when he spoke with reporters.
"I felt pretty good actually," acknowledged Nash, who had three assists in three games played before suffering the injury. "It's better than I thought I would feel. I felt I kept up, but there's still some work to be done. Just getting the wind up, the conditioning up, and then we can do contact."
Nash wore the bright yellow non-contact jersey during the practice, which ended in a series of conditioning sprints for the entire roster. The sprints are becoming a normal part of Nash's every day routine now as he works his way back into shape after being sidelined for four weeks. Wednesday marked the fifth straight day Nash has been on the ice after being cleared to do so by team doctors.
"I'm confident now that I'm OK with symptoms and stuff like that," explained Nash. "I think when a guy comes back from any injury you always want to get into some bumping, one on one play in the corner during practice. I'm sure I'll be doing the same thing in the coming week."
Head coach Alain Vigneault had said Nash would skate as an eighth defensemen during his first practice or two to work his way back, but with Anton Stralman and Ryan Callahan both given the day off Wednesday for body maintenance, Nash took part in all drills as a forward, skating with a variety of combinations, though most often with Dominic Moore and Brandon Mashinter.
"For a first practice with the team, considering the past four or five weeks he's been on limited activity, it was a real encouraging day," Vigneault said following practice on Wednesday.
Nash and Dom Moore---who himself is set to return to the lineup after missing seven straight games with a strained oblique---will likely skate on their own Thursday, which is a day off for the rest of the team. Then both will practice again Friday morning with their teammates and make the trip to Montreal for Saturday's game against the Canadiens.
As for Moore, he was joking after practice about all the bag skating he has done of late, though he did see the silver lining in the hard conditioning skates run by assistant coach Daniel Lacroix, too.
"You see guys coming back from injury, like Hagy and Cally, and they're flying around out there, so I think you put the work in when you're injured to be ready for when you come back, that's all I'm trying to do," stated Moore.
Vigneault said that the team might make a roster move prior to leaving for Montreal on Friday, but he first wanted to see if Moore would be absolutely ready to return to the lineup. It is possible that either Brandon Mashinter or J.T. Miller could be sent to Hartford in order to receive more playing time. Mashinter played just five shifts for a total of 2:48 in Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Devils, while Miller---who scored his first goal of the season Sunday against the Florida Panthers---logged 5:04 on ten shifts against New Jersey.
The head coach added that both Callahan and Stralman are fine and were just resting on Wednesday. Vigneault stated that both will practice Friday and play this weekend.
With back-to-back games this weekend in Montreal Saturday and at home against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, Vigneault just might be looking to alternate his goalies. In fact Vigneault said that he had already made up his mind about whom to start in goal Saturday and Sunday, but he had yet to inform Henrik Lundqvist and Cam Talbot of his plan, so he would not say anything else on the subject until Friday.
When asked if he was playing this weekend, Talbot responded, "I have been told to be ready", though he said that he was not given any definitive word.
Saturday starts a grueling stretch of nine games in 15 days to close out the month of November for the Rangers, so it would be expected that this weekend would not be the only chance for Talbot to see some action and for Lundqvist to receive some rest.